You might not know RuthAnne’s name just yet, but you’ve definitely heard one of her songs. If you ever jumped around your childhood bedroom screaming along to JoJo’s ‘Too Little Too Late’, you’ve got RuthAnne to thank, as she co-wrote the song at the age of 17.
Since then, she’s gone on to write for One Direction, Britney Spears, and more recently Niall Horan’s US #1 hit ‘Slow Hands’. However, in 2017, RuthAnne decided it was about time she kept some tunes for herself.
Inspired by soulful storytellers such as Lauren Hill and Alicia Keys, her solo single ’The Vow’ is out now. Before you give it a listen, get to know the woman behind the hits with our in-depth interview below…
Hi RuthAnne! It seems like you’ve always known music was your path. You used to be in a girl band when you were a teen, right? When did you really know you were meant to be in music?
Honestly, it always felt like I was in music, even on my own singing in my room in Dublin. I wrote my first song when I was 7 years old, called ‘He Lied To Me’ and I would perform it for anyone who would listen! I was put up on pub tables aged 4 singing songs for people, and then I formed a girl band when I was thirteen with my besties. If only YouTube existed back then… Actually thank god it didn’t! Luckily, it became my profession but I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t feel like I was already in it.
Let’s talk about being such a smash success at 17 after writing JoJo’s ‘Too Little Too Late’. What was it like to see the song blow up the way it did?
It was incredible, life changing to see a song that I’d co-written so young go on to have the kind of global success it did and to still have people remember it now and have their own nostalgic feeling with it is just really cool. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that song, that moment.
You’ve written for and worked with some of the biggest artists in the world, from Britney Spears to One Direction. What’s that been like?
When I’m in the room with them or writing for them I don’t really think about it too much because we’re all just humans and honestly most artists or celebrities I’ve been around are just normal people wanting to chat and write songs. But then when I hear the song on the radio, or I see them sing it live in front of thousands of fans that’s when it hits me. Watching Britney Spears open her Las Vegas show with our song just brings me back to the thirteen-year-old me who would replay her MTV performances over and over again because I just loved her so much. To be a little part of her history in music is incredible, and same with One Direction. It’s feckin’ mad actually…
You’ve been in the industry for quite some time now. How do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist since your start as a teenager?
Honestly I was a late bloomer, I had been very sheltered from a lot of things, and it wasn’t until I moved to LA in my twenties that I really started experiencing life and developing a real lyrical point of view, and I think as an artist that’s one of the most important things. Having real stories of substance to tell. The growth for me as artist also came in my strength to steer the ship and not listen to people telling me what I should do or who I should be as an artist. Just learning to following my own instincts and trusting myself more.
You’re focusing on your solo career now. What made you decide to make that shift from writing for other people?
It kind of happened by accident. I had been trying over the years on and off but people were telling me to make very bubblegum pop and it just never felt right so I stopped and was solely focusing on being a writer. I was finding the LA writing scene a little stale and uninspiring, it felt like no one cared about music – they just cared about having a hit, churning out the catchiest melody where the lyrics didn’t matter. So, I decided to take a break and go back to Ireland, and did a three week writing trip where it was just me and the producer, and it was like the songs were writing themselves. In those three weeks I wrote a lot of this first album without realising it. I came back to LA and played the songs for some friends and the reactions were just different, the songs were connecting with people in a real way and I listened back and just knew that this was the type of music I’d always wanted to do and these song were my stories and they all fit together like a body of work so it just feels natural being the artist who releases them. I’m still writing for and with other artists and I always will because I do love that too.
What is the biggest difference in your processes for writing for yourself and writing for others?
I think for me when I’m writing with an artist I really want to help them tell their story, not my story, that way it’s something they can really see themselves in. I like to have a conversation and help them feel comfortable enough to open up and tell me all their secrets and juicy gossip we can write about! So I feel like a therapist really (which I love), whereas my process is normally the opposite. I have a lot of thoughts I’ve already written down in my phone, then I hear chords and I just start singing melodies with the thoughts in my phone and then the producer becomes like my therapist helping me edit the rambling thoughts.
Your work really ranges from R&B to pop and beyond. What kind of music do you most listen to? What kind are you most inspired by?
I listen to every kind of music from the Beatles to Bruno Mars, from Drake to Jeff Buckley. I’m definitely most inspired by Soul/90’s hip hop & acoustic singer/songwriters like Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Tupac, Damien Rice, Ed Sheeran, Carole King, Thundercat, the list goes on…
And you’ve just released ‘The Vow’. What was the inspiration behind that song?
I had been writing this album and most of the songs are about me being the heartbroken or the heartbreaker. Because that’s just all I was experiencing at the time. I was really struggling to write a real love song & I knew it was the finishing piece of the puzzle. But I needed it to be real I couldn’t force it. So I’m on the phone one night with the most consistent man in my life (who is a best friend but also someone I have a little history with and still have feelings for). He has a way of talking that makes you feel like you’re in a romance novel, and not the Fifty Shades kind! The real, good stuff. So after talking to him that particular night, speaking about things like us performing in pubs together when we’re old in Ireland, I just woke up at 5am in the morning & started writing the lyrics down. I brought the idea to my co-writers the next day and we just wrote it on the spot. I called it ‘The Vow’ because it feels like a prayer, a Celtic Irish/soulful hymn about the journey of life and how I wanted to be his constant forever. I finally got my love song… We’re still just friends though… Ugh…
What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned from your career?
To be myself, 100% authentically me and make no apologies for that and to MAKE GOOD ART. I have that tattooed on my arm – it’s from a Neil Gaiman speech. He says ‘when you’re poor – make good art, when you’re rich – make good art, when/if your husband cheats on you – make good art, when you’re in love – make good art’. I try to always remember that.